False Positives


Positive thinking is better than negative thinking, right? I think most people would agree, yet sometimes the impact our positivity has on us is not as powerful as we think it might be.
Michael is a 14 handicap golfer who I began to work with last year. His son, David is a ranked junior tennis player who began working with me several weeks later. Michael worked with his local PGA professional on a regular basis and enjoyed working on his game and trying to improve year after year. After a while Michael reported to me that he still wasnt shooting the scores he believed he was capable of. He said he felt his on course performance was not matching the time/effort he was putting into his game. This is not an uncommon feeling for many of the clients Ive spoken to over the years. Many folks believe they should be playing better than they are. David, his son also worked with a local tennis professional and was on the court at least four days a week playing matches or taking lessons. David also felt his results in match play werent quite matching the time/effort he was putting in even though he had a good regional ranking.
Michael and David both felt they were positive people yet couldnt understand why their positivity wasnt helping them perform better. They say positive things to themselves and try to think positively as much as possible. Thats great! I said. But its not always about whether you are positive or not, its about what you put the most intensity behind.
All the books on Sports Psychology and Peak Performance in general contain great and motivating stories about others who are positive and produce great performances. Jack Nicklaus, Tiger Woods, Lance Armstrong, Annika Sorenstam and many political figures are examples of people who demonstrate positive thinking. I think everyone knows that positive thinking is better than negative thinking, right? Of course, being positive is extremely important, however Michael, David and many others fall into what I call the: False Positive Trap. This trap occurs when we think were focusing on the positive (and we are!) but what we focus on with greater intensity is self-criticism, judgments and unreasonable expectations, which are all forms of negativity. I see it happen time and time again with both athletes and coaches who do it quite unconsciously.
I witnessed a golf lesson two days ago where it was very interesting to notice the positive vs. the negative input. What was interesting was the high imbalance of negative input to positive input. Then, I observed a tennis lesson with David and the ratios were even more imbalanced. In fact, David was clearly becoming upset with the errors he was making while the pro continued to bark out instructions relating to what David should be doing. The golf and tennis lessons closely reflected the imbalances in how individuals treat themselves when it comes to positive and negative input. In the lessons, the positive feedback was treated with far less importance or intensity than the negative feedback. For example, Nice shot was said with relatively little excitement and Move your feet No, earlier preparation were expressed with a lot of intensity)The ratio of negative to positive was close to 65% to 35% and higher. This may seem very extreme but its very easy to think were being constructive when we giving constant feedback on what didnt go right, what we should be doing, etc. Again, its not just about the type of feedback; ITS ABOUT THE INTENSITY WITH WHICH WE ARE CONNECTED TO IT AND EXPERIENCING IT.
What about you? What is the ratio like for positive vs. negative feedback you give yourself?
Whats most important is the INTENSITY of your feedback; not just whether its positive or negative!
How would you answer this question:
What do you react to with greater intensitysomething you did well or something you didnt do well?
Eighty five percent responded by saying they respond with greater intensity, criticism and judgments to poor shots, poor decisions, missed opportunities, etc.as opposed to a positive ones.
In observing the Teaching pros (tennis and golf) when delivering negative feedback it was stronger (and more constant) than the positive feedback. If your individual feedback is so much more intense when it comes to negative information (self-criticism, judgments, reactions, etc.) your performance has to be negatively affected. Once again, when you are very clear about the mind/body/performance relationship and the principles by which they operate; this makes crystal clear sense. Its all connected and its a very precise and predictable process.
Be wary of what I call False Positives. These are the positive messages we give ourselves but that dont carry the same intensity as the negative criticisms and judgments we make on ourselves. Its the intensity that makes the difference in terms of our performance.
Whats your balance like? Turn False Positives into productive positive messages!
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